'Neglected infections of poverty' in US disable hundreds of thousands of Americans annually

June 24, 2008

An analysis published June 25th in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases highlights that diseases very similar to those plaguing Africa, Asia, and Latin America are also occurring frequently among the poorest people in the United States, especially women and children. These diseases — the "neglected infections of poverty" — are caused by chronic and debilitating parasitic, bacterial, and congenital infections.

While most Americans have never heard of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), the analysis estimates that these infections occur in hundreds of thousands of poor Americans concentrated primarily in the Mississippi Delta (including post-Katrina Louisiana), Appalachia, the Mexican borderlands, and inner cities. These diseases represent a major cause of chronic disability, impaired child development, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, yet many of them are preventable.

"The fact that these neglected infections of poverty represent some of the greatest health disparities in the United States, but they remain at the bottom of the public health agenda, is a national disgrace," says Peter J. Hotez , MD, PhD, author of the analysis and President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Executive Director of Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, and Walter G. Ross Professor and Chair of the Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine department at George Washington University.

Hotez notes that the common features of these neglected infections include their highly disproportionate health impact on minorities and people living in poverty; their chronic, largely insidious, and disabling features; and their ability to promote poverty because of their impact on child development, pregnancy outcome, and productive capacity. He calls upon policy makers to make these infections a priority on the public health agenda.

"Control of these neglected infections is both a highly cost-effective mechanism for lifting disadvantaged populations out of poverty and consistent with our shared American values of equity and equality," Hotez says. "We need a national dialogue about these very important, but neglected conditions that afflict the poorest people in the United States. Neglected infections of poverty are understudied and not well known even by physicians and public-health experts. This lack of understanding and knowledge points to the urgent need to increase surveillance for these infections; use cost-effective existing drug control and treatment efforts; implement newborn screenings; and develop new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for these infections."

CITATION: Hotez PJ (2008) Neglected Infections of Poverty in the United States of America. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2(6): e256. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000256
www.plosntds.org/doi/pntd.0000256

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: The microbial superhero in your vagina

Related Stories

The microbial superhero in your vagina

October 11, 2016

The aisle is marked with a little red sign that says "Feminine Treatments". Squeezed between the urinary incontinence pads and treatments for yeast infections, there is a wall of bottles and packages in every pastel shade ...

Neglected tropical diseases: A new handle on old problems

January 6, 2012

‘Neglected tropical diseases’ is a new name for old diseases that cause long-term suffering among the world’s poorest people. The Wellcome Trust and others have funded research into these diseases for decades, ...

Recommended for you

Raising the curtain on cerebral malaria's deadly agents

December 6, 2016

Using state-of-the-art brain imaging technology, scientists at the National Institutes of Health filmed what happens in the brains of mice that developed cerebral malaria (CM). The results, published in PLOS Pathogens, reveal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.